California and hip-hop music go together like Baseball and America. An odd comparison maybe, but think about it. As a region, California has produced some of the most innovative and creative artists of what Jeff Chang calls (in his book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop) “The Hip-Hop Generation.” With acts like NWA, Tupac, and Snoop Dogg, not to mention the new artists coming out of the region like Kendrick Lamar and Thurzday, this fact has been well-established. By itself, the Bay Area has produced some of the most iconic acts in hip-hop: E-40, Too $hort, Souls of Mischief, The Hieroglyphics, The Living Legends and Zion I. Technically, The Living Legends are pan-Cali artists–the product of both Oakland and South Central–and from that group emerged emcee Eligh, while from Zion I we get producer Amp Live, who have combined their years in the game with their new collaborative album, Therapy at 3.
The album sounds different than what we have heard from them individually though there are some elements on tracks like “Metronome,” which will instantly put listeners into the mindset of Zion I’s Mind Over Matter. Other reassuringly familiar aspects of the album include Eligh’s spitfire rhyme style. Amp Life’s production style, has expanded a little with this project and the mesh of the two makes for a quality collaboration that fans would have expected, judging from countless Zion I and Eligh collaborations, as well as the production that Amp Live has done for Eligh when he was doing music with The Grouch.
That being said, this is a pretty solid project with a few memorable notes–first and foremost “Destination Unknown,” featuring The Grouch and Zumbi. Not only does this track serve as a musical reunion but, the diverse elements of production that Amp Life puts together work out really well. The next highlight comes with the track, “Beautiful Addiction,” featuring Grieves and Blake Hazard. This track has the most crossover appeal, with Eligh speaking about a woman being his addiction with accompanying vocals. This song could have gone in a completely different direction and been a really annoying and whiny song, however it’s just the right amount of cheese which makes the song sweet and not corny.
“Devil’s Medicine,” features interesting production that’s rather simple throughout, however, ending in a pretty offbeat and unexpected way. Other highlights on the album come with tracks like: “What’s in a Name,” “L.A Dreamers,” and “Stop Running.” Overall, this project is a pretty solid album that expands on the things that made listeners fall in love with Eligh and Amp Live’s music in the first place. It’s a little to the left of what is currently dominating airwaves–but that’s what makes it so good.
- Erin Duncan